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Jones v. LA Fitness International, LLC

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff injured his arm while boarding a bus managed by Defendant because the bus lurched forward. The jury was instructed that the standard of care owed by Defendant to Plaintiff was not the same standard of care that is applied to an ordinary individual because Defendant is a commercial transportation provider. The jury held in Defendant’s favor, and Plaintiff appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Regarding the issue of a common carrier’s negligence, the jury instruction must clearly explain that the common carrier owes its passengers the “highest degree of care.”

    Facts.

    Oscar Jones, Plaintiff, was boarding a bus ran by the Port Authority of Allegheny County, Defendant. Suddenly, while Plaintiff was boarding, the bus lurched forward, and stopped.Plaintiff’s arm was injured. Thereafter, Plaintiff and his wife, Mary, brought suit against Defendant for negligence. In trial, the judge instructed the jury that the standard of care Defendant owed its passengers was that degree of care that Defendant held itself out as possessing, provided Defendant’s status as a commercial transportation provider with the knowledge and training to transport passengers safely. The court noted that Defendant’s standard of care was not the same standard of care that is applied to an ordinary individual. The jury found in Defendant’s favor. Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether the jury instructions on the issue of a common carrier’s negligence are sufficient when the instructions do not clearly explain that the common carrier owes its passengers the “highest degree of care”

    Held.

    No, the jury instructions on the issue of a common carrier’s negligence are not sufficient when the instructions do not clearly explain that the common carrier owes its passengers the “highest degree of care

    Discussion.

    Pursuant to Pennsylvania law, common carriers are held to the “highest degree of care” in operating and maintaining their vehicles. While trial courts are given considerable leeway to craft jury instructions that conform to applicable law, the lower court failed to clearly explain Defendant’s heightened standard of care requirement sufficiently clear. Therefore, the lower court’s judgment is vacated and a new trial granted.


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